NEW DELHI: In the backdrop of India and France's close cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and enhanced maritime exercises between the two, defence minister Rajnath Singh held the fourth round of annual defence dialogue with his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu here on Monday.

Lecornu conveyed France's "full support" for India's G20 presidency. The two sides discussed defence industrial cooperation with focus on 'Make in India' and strengthening maritime cooperation between the two countries. The French minister also met NSA Ajit Doval and "shared close assessments of major global and regional security issues and agreed to intensify counter terrorism cooperation".

The defence ministers also reviewed the ongoing military-to-military cooperation which has increased substantially in recent years. "They discussed means to strengthen maritime cooperation and increase the scope and complexity of bilateral exercises," a statement from the defence ministry said. India and France had recently held their bilateral air exercise 'Garuda' at Air Force station, Jodhpur.

The three decades’ dream of India to develop jet engines in India for its ambitious fighter jet program will soon be a reality. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) in June 2022 had instructed officials to conclude negotiations with France to develop a new fighter aircraft engine at the earliest jointly as early as possible, recognizing it as an essential component of New Delhi’s ambitions of self-reliance in terms of military equipment reported Frontier India. 

As the country reaches a significant phase to develop the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA)- the 5.5 gen aircraft, the dreams of India’s own jet engine have also inched forward. The ministry, which has instructed the authorities to seal the deal with French company Safran, has set a deadline of one month to conclude the talks, which are long pending. The delay has primarily been due to differences in the financing of research and development expenses for a new jet engine.

For AMCA, India requires a 110-Kilonewton-powered engine. The country was in discussions with France to leverage some of the offsets accruing from the Rafale fighter aircraft deal towards the project. 

Last year, the Indian Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, said that after talks with his former counterpart Florence Parly, France had agreed to develop an engine for the military in India under the strategic partnership model.

Growing Partnership

Lecornu on Sunday made a day-long trip to headquarters of the southern naval command and visited India's first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant and had expressed confidence in India's maritime capability.

"France is one of India's most trusted strategic partners and both countries look forward to celebrating 25 years of their strategic partnership in 2023," the defence ministry brief said.

The two sides also "recognised their convergences" on a number of strategic and defence issues and shared the commitment to work together on enhancing cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora, with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region.